By Yui and Satsuki Sheena. Released in Japan as “Mushikaburi-hime” by Ichijinsha Bunko Iris NEO. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Alyssa Niioka and Andria McKnight.
It’s been over two years since the last volume of this series was translated. In the interim, we have had the Bibliophile Princess anime, which was good but mostly served to show everyone that Elianna is a much better character on the printed page when we can hear what she is thinking. We have also had a global pandemic, which probably explains the delay on this volume; the author admits they were uncertain about whether to continue with the ongoing story given the state of the world (they started the arc pre-COVID. But we now have the 6th volume, and you get good value for money, as this is about 130 pages or so longer than most of the other volumes. And we need all that space, because finding a cure for the Ashen Nightmare, trying to avoid getting assassinated, and protect her position as Chris’ fiancee. That last one might actually be the most difficult, as Chris’ uncle really, really wants to be the power behind the throne and has his daughter ready to seduce the Prince.
We pick up where we left off, with the one book that has the cure they’ve been looking for having been burnt by the traitorous Jean. Elianna has to make a difficult decision here, which is not helped by Prince Irwin taking the time to press his own suit. Fortunately, they soon realize they have a loophole that can help with that burnt book, and are soon busily finding just the things that help to prevent and then cure the Ashen Nightmare. All that remains is to try to convince the noble-hating commoners that they’re here to help, figure out who’s the real one betraying them (yes, technically it’s Jean, but you know he’s agonizing about it), and then make it back to the capital in time to stop Chris getting blackmailed into dumping Elianna – fortunately, something he’d rather die than do. Will books be able to protect her this time?
Literally, in fact. The strength and weakness of this book is that it positively revels in its cliches, which can make for a lot of nice fist-pumping moments but also feels very contrived. There are not one but two “wait, I thought you were dead but you are alive” moments here, one of which I can just about buy but the other one made me roll my eyes a bit. This series also suffers heavily from the multiple narrators, which are simply hard to translate without sounding awkward – Private Tutor to the Duke’s Daughter has the same issue – and so you get a lot of paragraphs that start “I, Elianna Bernstein, was…” That said, I was so happy to get back into her headspace, especially after the anime rarely let us see it. Every tangent she went off on was a delight.
So a bit of a mixed bag, but overall I was quite happy to read it, and we at last get to the end of this arc. The seventh volume came out in Japan last October, so hopefully won’t be another two years.